Photo gallery from the Basque Country

My in-house camera man aka my husband has only recently been restored to the post after various misdemeanours at recent cycling events such as forgetting to recharge his camera’s battery, failing to insert the memory card and deleting a batch of photographs before they were saved. He is now on probation and, to get back into my good graces, has snapped away in all weather conditions down in the Basque country.

All the photographs were taken at the recent Vuelta al Pais Vasco, where you’ll note the weather worsens considerably as the race progresses. We’re starting with two ‘local’ boys – local to me that is as they both live on the Cote d’Azur – from BMC who were refining their form and teamwork ahead of the all-important Ardennes classics.

I wonder what's caught the eye of these two BMC boys, Amael Moinard and Philippe Gilbert?

I wonder what’s caught the eye of these two BMC boys, Amael Moinard and Philippe Gilbert? (image: Richard Whatley)

Another popular rider with the Basque public, RadioShack’s Jens Voigt, who’s already seen the weather forecast and is relishing the challenge. You’ll be unsurprised to learn that he was one of the 70-odd riders to finish the race.

Looking particularly imperious, the evergreen Jens Voigt trying to psyche out the opposition from the sign-on  (image: Richard Whatley)

Looking particularly imperious, the evergreen Jens Voigt trying to psyche out the opposition from the sign-on (image: Richard Whatley)

In order to win me over, my beloved took plenty of pictures of one of my (many) favourite riders, Samuel Sanchez …

It's defending champ Samu, aiming to peak at the Giro d'Italia (image: Richard Whatley)

It’s defending champ Samu, aiming to peak at the Giro d’Italia (image: Richard Whatley)

Here’s Giro d’Italia 2012 champ Ryder Hesjedal, whose name proved to be a bit of a tongue-twister for the Spanish announcers! He was working for young gun Andrew Talansky who had a nasty spill on Thursday just after the finish line in Eibar-Arrate.

Here's another boy dreaming of pink for May. He's still got the glasses from last year! (image: Richard Whatley)

Here’s another boy dreaming of pink for May. He’s still got the glasses from last year! (image: Richard Whatley)

Shy smile from Alexey Lutsenko, one of the younger riders taking part in the race.

Alexey Lutsenko under 23 World Champion, called the next Sagan by team manager Alexandre Vinokourov (image: Richard Whatley)

Alexey Lutsenko, under-23 world champion, called the next Sagan by team manager Alexandre Vinokourov (image: Richard Whatley)

Amets Txurruka, now with Caja Rural, spent most of the race out front and got a lock down on the mountains and sprint jerseys. Ironically the latter was sponsored by his former team Euskaltel!

Amets Txurruka always has time for his fans some of whom are even smaller than him! (image: Richard Whatley)

Amets Txurruka always has time for his fans, some of whom are even smaller than him! (image: Richard Whatley)

Amets, bittersweet experience to be back in orange (image: Richard Whatley)

Amets – a bittersweet experience to be back in orange (image: Richard Whatley)

A number of riders fell, losing time and sliding out of contention in the overall. Rein Taaramae was one of those!

Rein Taaramae, bloodied but unbowed after a tumble on stage one (image: Richard Whatley)

Rein Taaramae, bloodied but unbowed after a tumble on stage 1 (image: Richard Whatley)

Enigmatic smile from Mikel Landa (image: Richard Whatley)

Enigmatic smile from Mikel Landa (image: Richard Whatley)

I love how the various nationalities have a pre-race catch up, though of course some riders just prefer to collect their thoughts and think about the day’s challenges.

Pre-race catch up for the Basques (image: Richard Whatley)

Pre-race catch up for the Basques (image: Richard Whatley)

Time-trial world champion Tony Martin was there to win Saturday’s individual time trial. He succeeded despite it being on a parcours which didn’t favour him.

Tony Martin's worked up a bit of a sweat on those short steep climbs (image: Richard Whatley)

Tony Martin’s worked up a bit of a sweat on those short steep climbs (image: Richard Whatley)

Kristof Vandewalle hasn't seen the weather forecast (image: Richard Whatley)

Kristof Vandewalle hasn’t seen the weather forecast (image: Richard Whatley)

Much was made of the steep finish on Wednesday. Most of the boys were gratefully grabbed at the top by their soigneurs as they slumped exhausted over the handlebars.

Yes, it really was that steep. Just ask Alberto and Simon (image: Richard Whatley)

Yes, it really was that steep. Just ask Alberto, Simon and Samu (image: Richard Whatley)

The winner of that stage got a massive cup and one of those big, black, floppy Basque berets: txapala.

Henao wearing the txapala with pride (image: Richard Whatley)

Henao wearing the txapala with pride (image: Richard Whatley)

The local press felt that Sky had been disrespectful by failing to show up for the team presentation, bringing a team of six not eight riders and signing on late for the first two days! However, all was forgiven when they started winning stages.

Sky boys signing on late, again. But they redeemed themselves by animating the race (image: Richard Whatley)

Sky boys signing on late, again. But they redeemed themselves by animating the race (image: Richard Whatley)

I’m assuming Richie Porte handed his goodie box for winning straight to Sky’s chef  in a scene reminiscent of Ready, Steady, Cook. I have to wonder what Soren made with the enormous black sausage – obviously a local speciality – leeks, onions, potatoes and apples. Or was it a cunning Basque plan to slow Richie down in the following day’s time trial?

Richie Porte, winner of stage 5, can't quite believe his luck (image: Richard Whatley)

Richie Porte, winner of stage 5, can’t quite believe his luck (image: Richard Whatley)

As the week progressed the boys started bundling up in frankly anything they could lay their hands on as the temperatures plummeted. On one day we had weak sunshine, torrential rain, hail and snow!

Igor Anton ordering extra cheese on his post-race pizza (image: Richard Whatley)

Igor Anton ordering extra cheese on his post-race pizza (image: Richard Whatley)

It was good to see Andy Schleck back in action, he even got in a break, and while he was a DNF, so were 70-odd others!

Andy thought Jens was kidding about the weather. He wasn't! (image: Richard Whatley)

Andy thought Jens was kidding about the weather. He wasn’t! (image: Richard Whatley)

At MotoGP glamorous scantily clad lovelies hold an umbrella over the heads of the riders before the start to spare them the searing heat of the sun. Cycling has to make do with a mate with a brolly. I have no idea what they were chatting about, admiring Koldo’s bike? I love that Igor Anton has tape around the top of his shoe covers in trying to keep out the rain. I should have checked with him whether or not it works.

Basque pre-race huddle (image: Richard Whatley)

Basque pre-race huddle (image: Richard Whatley)

No one from Argos-Shimano finished the race. I think it was because they ran out of clean dry kit! Tanel Kangert‘s soigneur told me that this kit was going straight in the bin as it would be impossible to restore it to its former glory.

Tanel Kangert eEstonian national time trial champion (image: Richard Whatley)

Tanel Kangert, Estonian national time trial champion, doesn’t look too happy (image: Richard Whatley)

It’s only fitting that the final photo is of the winner Nairo Quintana. Isn’t that a great smile?

To the victor the spoils (image: Richard Whatley)

To the victor the spoils (image: Richard Whatley)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.